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Otto Gaertner

 (1845 - 1909)
Otto Edward Philip Gaertner was active/lived in New York / Germany.  Otto Gaertner is known for painter, interior designer, muralist.

Otto Gaertner

Biography from the Archives of askART

Otto Edward Philip Gaertner was born in Berlin, Germany, on August 5, 1845, he was the eleventh and youngest child, and the eighth son of the noted artist Eduard Johann Philipp Gaertner (sometimes spelled Gärtner) and Henriette Karel Gaertner. Otto Gaertner was brought up in a rarified environment, surrounded by the artwork of his distinguished father and the many other artists who were in his father's circle. It was this early association and its influences that created the desire for intensive study that began in his early childhood. He attended the University of Berlin on Unter den Linden, and studied at the Koniglichen, or Royal Academy of Fine Arts. He also spent some months studying art in Paris. Not only was Otto an accomplished artist, he was also a talented violinist and enjoyed playing this instrument throughout his life.

Otto's father was the noted German artist Edward Johann Phillipp Gaertner who was born in Berlin, Germany on June 2, 1801. By 1830 he had established himself as the leading painter of urban views which he regularly showed at Berlin Akademie exhibitions. He was not a court painter in the sense of the previous centuries, but an independent citizen from whom the Prussian Kings ordered and bought artwork. His paintings are in the collection of the National Gallery, West Berlin; the castle of Berlin Charlottenburg (West); the collection in the National Gallery of East Berlin and other museums throughout Germany and Europe. He died in Fleckin-Zechlin, near Berlin, on February 22, 1877. He was the single biggest influence in young Otto's life and encouraged his son's artistic interests from the time of his early boyhood.

In 1870 Otto, spent a year visiting and traveling throughout Japan with his two brothers. Otto's brother Conrad Gaertner had become the German Consul to Japan in 1863 and held this post until 1871. Conrad also had some talent in draftsmanship and while he never pursued a career as an artist he did do a number of European genre pencil sketches His other brother, Reinhold Gaertner was an agriculturalist, and had a large plantation in Japan. Otto kept a diary giving a day by day description of his travels and all the fascinating places he visited during his sojourn in Japan. He became inspired by the highly diverse Japanese culture which greatly influenced his later works.

In 1871 he left Japan with his two brothers to travel to America. The three Gaertner brothers arrived in San Francisco, California, on July 11, 1871. The brothers visited many other cities and places throughout the United States and finally arrived in New York City in January, 1872. During their stay in New York City, a large reception was held honoring Conrad Gaertner, the German Consul. Among the guests were Mrs. Henry Benjamin Hogeman and her charming young daughter, Louise Mary Hogeman, with whom Otto Gaertner immediately fell in love. When the time came to return to his home in Berlin, Otto abandoned his world trip and remained in New York City to court his beloved Louise. Later that summer on August 31, 1872, Otto Gaertner and Louise Hogeman were married. They raised a large family that included nine children.

After his marriage Otto began to pursue a career in art. His first contact was with the well-known firm of decorators, R. Loforte, on Fifty Fourth Street and Sixth Avenue. Mr. Loforte had many clients for various forms of interior decoration, including custom furniture, decorative frescos, murals and other accoutrements. In 1880, Otto Gaertner, was elected president of the German Arts Club of New York City.

In 1892 while he was in Dayton, Ohio doing a commission for a decorative painting job for a church, he also created paintings of rural scenes of the area. He liked Dayton and thought of establishing himself in business there with a partner, but decided that New York City was better for his type of art. The Dayton Art Institute, Dayton Ohio has four paintings by Otto Gaertner in its collection. They are all rural scenes surrounding Dayton and are dated 1892. It was during this time that Gaertner firmly established himself in the decorating field as a fresco and mural painter. He had offices in the Churchman Building, at 47 Lafayette Place, New York City, in partnership with Charles Booth who specialized in stained glass memorial windows, and with his wife's brother, Charles F. Hogeman, whose specialty was church metal work and communion services.

Otto Gaertner's great talent was both as a church decorator, and in painting mural and frescos for private dwellings and other buildings. In 1895 Gaertner did the decorations for the New Orleans Cathedral. In 1902 when President Theodore Roosevelt was in office, Gaertner redecorated parts of the interior of the White House. President Roosevelt admired Gaertner's work that was done for his residence in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York. While Otto was in Washington, he also painted several water colors depicting landscapes and genre scenes of the area. During 1902 he was engaged by Mr. J. B. Haggin to paint murals at his residence, known as "Elmendorf," in Lexington, Kentucky. Mr. Haggin was well known for raising race horses. Gaertner also painted a scene which depicted the Kentucky home and property of Mr. Haggin.

In 1907 Otto was one of the leading artists for the Jamestown Exposition in Virginia. In that same year he was commissioned by the daughter of Jay Gould, Miss Helen Gould, to create decorations and murals at her mansion on the Hudson known as 'Lyndhurst' at Irvington, in Tarrytown New York. Gould's daughter made many improvements and added several notable buildings to the estate. Lyndhurst is one of America's finest Gothic Revival mansions and is now a museum.

Miss Gould also bought paintings by Gaertner that depicted scenes in the Tarrytown area and one of her estate at Irvington. Two of these paintings are in the collection at Lyndhurst. In 1908 Otto was commissioned by Mr. John D. Rockefeller Senior, to decorate his villa at Pocantico Hills, New York, on the Hudson River.

Gaertner was commissioned to decorate the mansions of many leading citizens in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, West Virginia and elsewhere. His decorative work was done in the city residences and the country estates of other noted personages like the Belmont's, Vanderbilt's and others. His smaller more personal paintings can be found in museum collections around the country including the Smithsonian, Washington, DC; Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, Ohio; and the Lyndhurst Museum, Tarrytown, New York

In 1966, Thomas M. Beggs, the former Director, of The National Collection of Fine Arts, the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. wrote a forward for the book on the life and works of Otto Gaertner written by Gaertner's daughter Ethel G. Pyne. He wrote that the unique collection of works by Gaertner, still in the family's hands, was preserved in the form of sketches, preliminary drawings, and detail studies. This includes stencils and perforated patterns for decorative border designs and tapestry murals composed to adorn the manors of former lords of American industrial and commercial realms. The assembled collection documents for the architectural historian important aspects of a decorative style of interior now rarely seen in unadulterated form. It provides the artisan/antiquarian with excellent reference material, especially regarding technical method for use in restoration and conservation. (Thomas M. Beggs McLean, Virginia, December 1966)

Otto Gaertner's productive career reached its peak with the decoration of the magnificent homes that graced the heights along the Hudson River. Drawing from his heritage of German academic tradition and the example of his father, this artist's contribution to the area's decorative style formed a part of the legacy of European craftsmanship that nourished the arts and trades of the 19th century.

Gaertner lived and worked in New York City during the time known as "the Gilded Age." An exhibition was held in 1998 at the Springfield Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield Massachusetts, titled Gildy Pleasure, The watercolors and pastels of the Gilded Age. Works by some of America's foremost artists from that era were displayed, including artwork by Childe Hassam, William Trost Richards, Maxfield Parrish, Winslow Homer, Alice Pike Barney and with this august group was Otto Gaertner's water-color titled "Sunset After Storm," lent from the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC.

All through his career as a painter of decorative frescos and murals, Otto Gaertner, painted oils and watercolors which were purchased by his admirers. His subject matter included landscapes, still life, flowers, and birds among other things and some of his genre scenes of the mid west and other areas have a unique charm of their own. His studies for his wall decorations are incredibly detailed and beautiful, giving us a wonderful glimpse into the gilded age when those beautiful decorations surrounded mansion walls. They give us a chance to appreciate the artist's versatility and his great technical skills

After deciding to make his permanent home in the United States Gaertner, became an American Citizen On June 16, 1891. Otto Gaertner died in New York City on February 10, 1909.

Kaycee Benton, Gallery Professional

Otto Edward Philip Gaertner wrote a book titled, 'Decorations for Dwellings' which contain 15 original designs for murals in watercolor. The book is in the collection of the Library of Congress.

A book on Otto Edward Philip Gaertner, written by his daughter Ethel G. Pyne in 1968 titled. Otto Gaertner, Artist In Painting, Painter/Designer/ Muralist. Published by Vantage Press, Inc.

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About  Otto Gaertner

Born:  1845 - Berlin, Germany
Died:   1909 - New York, New York
Known for:  painter, interior designer, muralist